In order to be arrested for DUI in South Carolina, the police must have reasonable cause to believe you’re driving under the influence. In order for the State to prove their case, they need to prove each element of the offense. One of the main elements is that the defendant was driving their vehicle at the time of their arrest. So, what happens if you’re asleep in your car when the police arrive? Many of our clients assume that it’s safe to pull over and “sleep it off.” However, the truth is that many drivers are arrested and charged even if they were fast asleep when the cops arrived. If this happens to you, then you should go online right away and search for, “the best DUI lawyer near me.”
We fully understand why a person would think it was legal to sleep on the side of the road. As long as your keys aren’t in the ignition, the prosecutor can’t possibly claim you were drunk driving, right? Here, we’ll talk about how the law applies to these situations. We’ll also talk about what arguments your Spartanburg, South Carolina criminal defense lawyer can launch against the State. If you still have questions about DUI in South Carolina or think you need an experienced DUI attorney, give us a call. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
What Are the Elements of DUI in South Carolina?
In order for the State to convict you of DUI in South Carolina, they need to prove the elements of the crime. The first element is that you were driving a vehicle. This seems like it would be an obvious element to prove. However, if you aren’t technically driving at the time of your arrest, would that be considered DUI?
The second element is that you are driving on a road located in South Carolina. Obviously, the cops in South Carolina aren’t going to arrest you outside of the state. If you’re charged for DUI in South Carolina, it’s because you were driving within the boundaries of the state.
The State is also going to have to prove the third element of DUI in South Carolina. This element states that you must be under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of your traffic stop. This can often be proven using a breathalyzer or field sobriety test.
In looking at these three elements, it seems like an arrest involving a driver who was asleep in their car wouldn’t meet the basic requirements. If you’re asleep, you can’t very well be driving. Unfortunately, this is an issue that has been debated for over fifty years in South Carolina. It’s also an issue that has been tested in other states throughout the country.
Your Spartanburg, South Carolina Criminal Defense Lawyer Will Argue You Were Not Driving
The obvious argument your Spartanburg, South Carolina criminal defense lawyer is going to raise is that you weren’t driving at the time of your arrest for DUI in South Carolina. The police report will likely indicate that you were asleep when the arresting officers approached your vehicle. In fact, this will probably be the police officers’ basis for making the stop. If they saw you asleep behind the wheel, they would want to make sure you were okay. In so doing, they would notice if the person in the vehicle is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If you were asleep, your attorney is going to argue that you weren’t driving at all. If that’s the case, then the State hasn’t proven the first element of the crime of DUI in South Carolina. How can you be driving if you were not even awake?
The State will argue that, even though you were technically asleep when the cops stopped, you could have woken at any moment. This means that you could have decided to drive off at any point. The fact that you didn’t was just a matter of chance. Had the cops arrived ten or fifteen minutes later, you could have been gone.
The Cops Will Do Whatever They Can to Justify the Arrest
The last thing a police officer wants to do is admit that they shouldn’t have pulled somebody over. (Technically, if you were asleep, they did not pull you over. However, they did perform a traffic stop.) They will find whatever information they can to prove that you intended to drive.
One way they can do this is by showing that your keys were in the ignition. They can also argue that, if you were drunk when they arrived, you must have driven to that point while under the influence. While it may be admirable that you pulled over to avoid hurting anyone, it doesn’t change the fact that you were drunk when you arrived at the location.
Your attorney can argue that you were not driving when you arrived at the spot of your arrest on charges of DUI in South Carolina. They can claim that you were drinking on the side of the road and only then did you get into your vehicle. The problem with this is that it will be a very far-fetched claim. The odds of the judge believing this story are slim to none. However, if it’s the best argument available, your lawyer will have no choice but to pursue it.
Your Spartanburg DUI Defense Lawyer Can Help
It seems extremely unfair that the courts would convict someone of DUI in South Carolina when they were found asleep at the wheel. Would the police rather you continue to drive after you’ve realized that you were too drunk to operate a vehicle? It would seem to be the case.
Of course, there are many situations in which the police would allow you to call for a ride home. They would recommend you have a friend drive your car home or allow you to come back for it later. In some cases, however, the police will find whatever probable cause they need to arrest you on suspicion of DUI in South Carolina.
If this has happened to you, call and speak to one of our Spartanburg, South Carolina criminal defense lawyers. They can evaluate your case and see what they can do to get the charges against you reduced or dismissed.